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Cloquet man runs for kids in Uganda... and just because

On his 63rd birthday, Tim Krohn goes for an 8-mile taper run (above) along Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi, following a snowfall. Contributed Photo1 / 3
Cloquet's Tim Krohn talks about why he runs, while sitting at his kitchen table last week. Brady Slater/ news@pinejournal.com2 / 3
Some of the children who call the Blue House Orphanage home. Tim Krohn visited the new Blue House in Uganda twice, and became involved because, "It's a very small, efficient organization that is making a large impact for the orphans and the area around Kazo, Uganda," he said.3 / 3

Tim Krohn is just home from an invigorating sundown run with friends along the lake walk in Duluth.

He's had just enough time to address the pets' needs and clear a spot at the table. He's about to tell his story. It must dawn on him he might not be the best one for the job, so he apologizes early on for not being "an extroverted kind of guy."

He's got a sense of humor, though.

"It's a dry one," said the 63-year-old Cloquet resident. Soon, the nickname for the cat - "D@&# cat" - doesn't sound like a nickname at all in the absence of hearing another name.

So, where to begin a story about an accidental marathoner whose "d@&# cat" just might have his tongue? How about with that sense of humor, again?

"The pants had started to roll over at the belt loop," he said, "so that was getting kind of obnoxious."

The man across the table no longer has any waistline worries. His frame is spare - a lean body true to his few words. It's been a half dozen years now that Krohn has called himself a marathoner, since he started running hardcore for the first time in his life at age 57. He offers no epiphanies; no, "If I could do this, I could do anything" type of attitude. He forgoes platitudes, those tried and trite sayings that can fill and fuel the athlete's brain. To Krohn, marathoning may prove he's not a quitter, but you get the feeling he never much felt like that in the first place. If he trusts one platitude at all, it's Nike's famous "Just Do It."

"I'd just got kicked out of the basketball officiating clique for, what they said, was not making enough progress over four years," Krohn said. "I needed something to do. If I stared at the walls with the d@&# cat, I'd go crazy."

So he ran. He started at small events. A 5K in Fargo, N.D. The half-Birkie in Hayward, Wis. Then came Carlton's Half Voyageur Trail Marathon, which was his accidental first full marathon-length 26.2 miles. He'd registered for that race by signing on for what he thought was 13.1 miles. Two weeks before the race he found out the trail race was not a typical half-marathon like you'd find on the roads, but a half of 50-plus miles on trails. He ran it anyway, and finished in five-and-a-half hours. Since, he's added international races like the Big Five Marathon in South Africa and the Dead Sea Marathon in Amman, Jordan, to his collection of racing pelts. He ran 4:30 in that Middle East race earlier this year and came home to run the Whistlestop in Ashland, Wis., and put down a 3:51, qualifying him for the Boston Marathon, in 2014-15, whichever year he chooses.

He's certain he'll race Boston, and, "Who knows?" that mecca may even move Krohn, who likes to keep a daily journal on his travels, to poetry. But it was November's race in Port Douglas, Australia, the Solar Eclipse Marathon, that might be the closest race to Krohn's heart. He ran it for 22 girls in rural Uganda, living at Blue House Orphanage.

He'd been training on a good hunk of the Grandma's course in Duluth, so he tends to look outside (the country) for his racing challenges. He'd become acquainted with the charity through family and friends and, during the course of his travels, has visited twice. He's seen the orphanage grow from two mud huts into a vibrant home with new and more modern buildings.

Registering for a marathon can be a tricky gambit, but it doesn't take a grant writer. Krohn said entry is made easier when a runner has a charity to support. For his part, he raised north of $2,000 for the Blue House Orphanage.

"It's a way to help," Krohn said. "Running dog tired and sore is a lot easier than asking people for money."

Krohn grew up in Madison, Wis. He and his ex-wife moved to Cloquet for professional reasons, after he was hired by the mill while toting a forestry degree from the university in his backyard. Prior to that he and his wife had been indoctrinated into the smallness of our large world through simultaneous tours in the Peace Corps. Krohn recalls planting trees as a young man in Swaziland, Africa, and visiting those same trees years later during his running of the Big Five.

"They're still there," he said.

So, yes, Krohn has managed to leave his footprint in more ways than one across the globe. Clearly, he and his former wife gifted their three children with that same curious spirit. Son Jefferson is helping with the Sappi pulp mill project as a process engineer. Daughter Kristina is at Stanford, but currently spending time in New York City on a Stanford/NBC television fellowship as she dips into broadcast journalism. Finally, son Brian is a Rhodes scholar studying PhD-level "bio-fuel management" at the University of Minnesota. Krohn is proud of his children and their mother's success. His former wife, Mary, is the manager of Sappi's Cloquet pulp mill.

But you get the feeling Krohn added Mesha into the mix in 2008 because the house was empty, save for him and that cat.

"She's pure Norwegian, polar, squirrel-hunting, fur-shedding dog," he said. "A mutt."

But she's built like a thoroughbred. As Krohn's training partner, the predominantly white-haired Mesha is capable of moving long distances and moving her owner to eloquence.

"I got her and her name was Bridget," he said. "But she's not a French dog, she's a Russian dog." Thus Mesha, which Krohn later discovered was a Russian nickname ... "for Michael," he cracked.

The Russians will laugh. When he gets there. He's still got Europe and South America to go in his private quest to run a marathon on each continent. So far, he's knocked off Australia, North America, Asia and Africa. He'd like to plant his flag in Berlin, where he's got ancestral family he could also track down. And just the other day, shortly after returning home from the Solar Eclipse run (and an 8-day bike through New Zealand preceding it), Krohn stamped and mailed his entry into a race in 2017 - in Antarctica.

"It's along the shore," he said.

For now, the land information manager for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is content to run the local railroad tracks and Pine Valley trails. He's gearing up for something called the Freeze Your Gizzard run.

Still, in the background, either that darn cat is purring or it's a quiet Mongolian drumbeat calling him.

"For some reason, I've always wanted to go to Mongolia," he said.

So it goes for the man of few words. The ones he does speak, you just know he will keep.

Running for Blue House

The Blue House Orphanage was initially the dream of Beatrice Gurabanda, who fled to Minnesota during the civil war in Uganda. When it was safe enough for her to return to Uganda, she was struck by the increasing number of orphans in the country. Befriended by a group of Minnesotans through church, Beatrice founded Hope Multipurpose Inc., to help run and fund the orphanage. In a unique setup, HMI has two governing boards - one here in Minnesota and the other in Uganda.

Beatrice died in 2005, but her family and friends continue her vision, including building a new orphanage.

Tim Krohn visited the new Blue House in Uganda twice, and became involved because, "It's a very small, efficient organization that is making a large impact for the orphans and the area around Kazo, Uganda," he said.

See to donate to the Blue House Orphanage through Hope Multipurpose Inc. or HMI through Dec. 31, 2012.